The most articulate of the seven “happy hour” candidates. The former tech CEO came off as assured and in command of many details. She spoke solidly about her opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. She got a prop from Rick Perry, who said he wished she had been our Iran negotiator rather than Secretary of State John Kerry. Understated moment: “I understand bureaucracies and how to cut them.” She squared up at the end and readied for a direct fight against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
His hardline credentials, especially on security, rose to the surface, but he’ll have a difficult time overcoming on style points. He’s got a plan to cut taxes and grow the economy. Hmm. He’s got experience, but he didn’t light up the place.
Graham showed off a cheeky sense of Twitter humor before the debate, suggesting in a pregame “emoji guide” to the later Trump show, that viewers settle in with a cold one and “hide your cell phone number.” But he turned endlessly serious in the debate. Separating himself from most of his fellow candidates, as well as from the Obama administration, Graham asserted the need for American troops to join the fight on the ground against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “If you’re running for president of the United States and you don't understand that we need more American ground forces in Iraq ... then you're not ready to be commander in chief.” Graham floundered on his already tired quip about understanding “Clintonspeak” and gave ground by repeating his “whatever it takes” theme on national security.
Prodded by a moderator, Jindal finally zinged Ohio Gov. John Kasich as a Medicaid expander, and, of course, he’d roll back the clock on everything else of the last eight years. Defining quote: “Immigration without assimilation is an invasion.”
He began his closing statement this way: “With all the candidates, why me?” Indeed. He pretty much failed to convince that he possesses a real ability to work across the aisle. Much has changed in the world and the nation since he was New York’s governor on Sept. 11, 2001.
He needed a political makeover, and made some strides to appear as if he had a handle on matters. His two pillars: secure the border and grow the economy as he did in running Texas, “the 12th largest economy in the world.” But he got little traction in saying how he would expand that record to the rest of America.
The lowlight for Santorum came when he was asked whether the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage was settled law. “It is not, any more than Dred Scott was settled law to Abraham Lincoln,” he responded, talking about the 1857 court decision that said African Americans were not citizens. We get the fact that it made good sense for Lincoln to abolish slavery; that made good sense for the nation’s future. So ... Santorum says it makes good sense as well to get rid of gay marriage? Talk about being backward looking.
Given his experience as a candidate, Santorum had an opportunity to stand out. But it’s hard to see him catching fire after this.